Antoine-Jean Gros

For the 19th century diplomat, see Jean-Baptiste Louis Gros.
Antoine-Jean Gros

Antoine-Jean Gros,
by François Gérard (1791)
Born 16 March 1771 (1771-03-16)
Died 25 June 1835 (1835-06-26) (aged 64)
near Meudon
Education College Mazarin
Known for Painting

Antoine-Jean Gros (16 March 1771 – 25 June 1835), also known as Baron Gros, was both a French history and neoclassical painter.

Early life and training

Equestrian portrait of prince Boris Yusupov, 1809

Born in Paris, Gros began to learn to draw at the age of six from his father, Jean-Antoine Gros,[1] who was a miniature painter, and showed himself as a gifted artist. Towards the close of 1785, Gros, by his own choice, entered the studio of Jacques-Louis David, which he frequented assiduously, continuing at the same time to follow the classes of the Collège Mazarin.

The death of his father, whose circumstances had been embarrassed by the French Revolution, threw Gros, in 1791, upon his own resources. He now devoted himself wholly to his profession, and competed (unsuccessfully) in 1792 for the grand prix. About this time, however, on the recommendation of the École des Beaux Arts, he was employed on the execution of portraits of the members of the National Convention, and disturbed by the development of the Revolution, Gros left France in 1793 for Italy.

Genoa and Bonaparte

Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole, 1796

He supported himself at Genoa by the same means, producing a great quantity of miniatures and fixes. He visited Florence, but returned to Genoa where he made the acquaintance of Joséphine de Beauharnais. He followed her to Milan, where he was well received by her husband, Napoleon Bonaparte.

On 15 November 1796, Gros was present with the army near Arcola when Bonaparte planted the French tricolor on the bridge. Gros seized on this incident, and showed by his treatment of it (entitled Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole) that he had found his vocation. Bonaparte at once gave him the post of inspecteur aux revues, which enabled him to follow the army, and in 1797 nominated him on the commission charged to select the spoils which should enrich the Louvre.


Bataille d´Aboukir, 25 juillet 1799, 1806

In 1799, having escaped from the besieged city of Genoa, Gros made his way to Paris, and in the beginning of 1801 took up his quarters in the Capucins. His esquisse of the Battle of Nazareth (now in the Musée de Nantes) gained the prize offered in 1802 by the consuls, but was not carried out, owing it is said to the jealousy of Jean-Andoche Junot felt by Napoleon; but he indemnified Gros by commissioning him to paint his own visit to the pest-house of Jaffa. Les Pestiférés de Jaffa (Louvre) was followed by The Battle of Aboukir, 1806 (Versailles), and The Battle of Eylau, 1808 (Louvre).[2] According to the article about Gros in the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, 1911, these three subjects – the popular leader facing the pestilence unmoved, challenging the splendid instant of victory, heart-sick with the bitter cost of a hard-won field – gave Gros his chief title to fame.

Britannica further remarks that as long as the military element remained bound up with French national life, Gros received from it a fresh and energetic inspiration which carried him to the very heart of the events which he depicted; but as the army and its general separated from the people, Gros, called on to illustrate episodes representative only of the fulfilment of personal ambition, ceased to find the nourishment necessary to his genius, and the defect of his artistic position became evident. Trained in the sect of the Classicists, he was shackled by their rules, even when by his naturalistic treatment of types, and appeal to picturesque effect in color and tone, he seemed to run counter to them.


Napoleon at the Pyramids in 1798, 1810
Lieutenant Charles Legrand, c. 1810

At the Salon of 1804, Gros debuted his painting Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa. The painting launched his career as a successful painter. It depicts Bonaparte in Jaffa visiting soldiers infected with the bubonic plague. He is portrayed reaching out to one of the sick, unfazed by the illness. While Bonaparte did actually visit the pesthouse, later, as his army prepared to withdraw from Syria, he ordered the poisoning (with laudanum) of about fifty of his plague-infected men.[3] The painting was commissioned as damage control when word spread of his actions. The painting is in the Neo-Classical style, though it shows elements such as the lighting and a taste for the exotic that are precursors to the upcoming Romantic ideals.

In 1810, his Madrid and Napoleon at the Pyramids (Versailles) show that his star had deserted him. His Francis I and Charles V, 1812 (Louvre), had considerable success; but the decoration of the dome of St. Genevieve (begun in 1811 and completed in 1824) is the only work of Gros's later years which shows his early force and vigour, as well as his skill. The "Departure of Louis XVIII" (Versailles), the Embarkation of Madame d'Angoulême (Bordeaux), the plafond of the Egyptian room in the Louvre, and finally his Hercules and Diomedes, exhibited in 1835, testify only that Gros's efforts – in accordance with the frequent counsels of his old master David – to stem the rising tide of Romanticism only damaged his once brilliant reputation.


Again citing Britannica, "Exasperated by criticism and the consciousness of failure, Gros sought refuge in the gros[ser] pleasures of life." On 25 June 1835, he was found drowned on the shores of the Seine at Meudon, near Sèvres. From a paper which he had placed in his hat, it became known that "tired of life, and betrayed by last faculties which rendered it bearable, he had resolved to end it."


Gros was decorated and named Baron of the Empire by Napoleon, after the Salon of 1808, at which he had exhibited the Battle of Eylau.[2]

The number of Gros's pupils was very great, and was considerably augmented when, in 1815, David quit Paris and gave over his own classes to him. Under the Restoration. he became a member of the Institute, professor at the École des Beaux Arts, and was named chevalier of the Order of Saint Michael.

Gros had also been an inspiration to Eugene Delacroix, especially with his work in lithography. The two both worked in the same time period, and both did portraits of Napoleon. Though at one point, Gros had referred to Delacroix's Chios and Missolonghi as "a massacre of art".

G. Dargenty produced a book titled Les Artistes Celebres ("Famous Artists") Le Baron Gros GILBERT WOOD & Co. London

M. Delcluze gives a brief notice of his life in Louis David et son temps ("Louis David and his Times"), and Julius Meyer's Geschichte der modernen französischen Malerei ("History of Modern French Painting") contains what Britannica cites as an excellent criticism on his works.


Image Title Date Dimensions Collection
Madame Pasteur 1795–1796 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Portrait of Madame Bruyere 1796 79 × 65 cm Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
Bonaparte at the Pont d'Arcole 1796 130 × 94 cm Palace of Versailles
The Death of Timophanes 1798 44.4 × 57.6 cm The Louvre
Portrait of Christine Boyer c. 1800 214 × 134 cm The Louvre
The Battle of Nazareth 1801 136.1 x 196.4 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
Sappho at Leucate 1801 122 × 100 cm Musée Baron Gérard, Bayeux
First Consul Bonaparte 1802 205 × 127 cm Musée de la Légion d'honneur
Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa 1804 715 × 523 cm The Louvre
Battle of Aboukir, July 25, 1799 1806 578 × 968 cm Palace of Versailles
Battle of Eylau, February 9, 1807 1807 104.9 × 145.1 cm The Louvre
Portrait of the French composer Pierre Zimmermann 1808 118.5 × 91 cm Palace of Versailles
Equestrian portrait of Jérôme Bonaparte c. 1808 321 × 265 cm Palace of Versailles
Equestrian portrait of Prince Boris Yusupov 1809 321 × 266 cm Pushkin Museum
Battle of the Pyramids 1810 389 × 311 cm Palace of Versailles
Napoleon accepts the surrender of Madrid, 4 December 1808 1810 361 × 500 cm Museum of French History
The Horse of Mustapha Pasha c. 1810 89 × 175 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'archéologie de Besançon
Portrait of General Claude Legrand c. 1810 245 × 172 cm Palace of Versailles
Portrait of Second Lieutenant Charles Legrand c. 1810 249 × 162 cm Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve 1811–1824 Panthéon de Paris
François I and Charles V Visiting the Church of Saint-Denis 1812 The Louvre
Equestrian portrait of Joachim Murat 1812 89 × 175 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'archéologie de Besançon
General Baston de Lariboisière and his son Ferdinand c. 1815 Musée de l'Armée
Honoré-Charles Baston de Lariboisière 1815 73 × 59 cm Private collection
Departure of Louis XVIII from the Palace of the Tuileries on the Night of 20 March 1815 1817 405 × 525 cm Palace of Versailles
Embarkation of Madame d'Angoulême 1819 326 × 504 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Count Jean-Antoine Chaptal 1824 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Hercules and Diomedes 1835 426 × 324 cm Musée des Augustins
Portrait of Pierre Daru 19th century 216 × 142 cm Palace of Versailles

See also


  1. The Napoleon Series
  2. 1 2 Prendergast, Christopher. (1997). Napoleon and History Painting: Antoine-Jean Gros's La Bataille d'Eylau. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-817402-0
  3. Peterson, Robert K. D.; "Insects, Disease, and Military History: The Napoleonic Campaigns and Historical Perception"; American Entomologist 41:147-160. (1995) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2015-03-26. retvd 3 26 15


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